Colorado Parks and Wildlife believes in the healing power of fresh air and exercise.

Since 2012 the organization has offered First Day Hikes – free guided New Year’s Day hikes in many of Colorado’s state parks, accompanied by free swag and hot beverages. Cheyenne Mountain State Park and Mueller State Park near Divide both offer activities Monday. Visitors still have to purchase a $7 parks pass to enter.

Volunteers at Cheyenne Mountain will lead three hikes beginning at 10 a.m. Folks can select from the 1-mile Zook Loop, 3-mile Sundance Trail or 5-mile Blackmer Trail. All three are considered easy and family-friendly. Afterward, free hot chocolate will be served in the visitor center.

About 100 to 200 people show up every year.

“One year it was snowing pretty good,” said Jeanette Lara, administrative assistant at the park. “The park group that turned out, about 100, they had a blast. It made it more fun to hike in the snow.”

Twenty-six state parks will participate in the organized hikes this year. Most offer multiple trail options.

Aside from folks who set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get healthier, there are other reasons to participate.

“It’s a great opportunity to get outside and meet other people who are wanting to hike,” said Lara.

Throughout the year, the park will hold a trail challenge and encourage folks to complete all 18 hikes in the state park, which cover almost 22 miles, by year’s end.

“If they’re needing more incentive to keep up with the resolution to get outside and get healthy, the trail challenge is a secondary way to attend First Day,” she said. “Sign up for the trail challenge, and that can help them stay motivated. We award a trail challenge patch to anyone who completes that.”

Read this article at The Gazette.

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